I was extremely pleased with the two letters received by the Rigpa Sangha on April 11, one announcing Sogyal Rinpoche’s resignation as spiritual director of the organisation, and the other explaining the position of the Rigpa management and how they intended to proceed.
After His Holiness the Dalai Lama said that Sogyal Rinpoche had been disgraced and that his students had done the right thing in publicising his unethical behaviour, stepping down was the only way to give Rigpa, the organisation, a chance to continue without continuing to be tainted by Sogyal Rinpoche’s unethical actions into the future. Now that he has done this, it is clearly the students’ responsibility to clean up the organisation. Rinpoche suggested that Rigpa could continue by bringing a range of teachers to the West from all the Tibetan traditions, a direction I always saw as the way forward for the organisation. So I feel this is very good.
I know that some are disappointed that there is still no admission of harm from Rinpoche, but the legal implications of doing so make any public apology not a wise move for him. I think we need to understand this. I hope that personally, however, for his sake as well as for those harmed, that he will come to understand that he has caused harm. I would be very happy should I ever hear that he was doing a Vajrasattva retreat, for that would indicate that he has realised and was undertaking purification practice, which includes the practice of regret, reparation, and a vow never to repeat the harmful actions. Such a move would be very good for his health and for those who need some acknowledgement that he feels regret, not regret that this had been exposed (which is all that has been said so far), but regret that he acted improperly.
Some will be disturbed by Sogyal Rinpoche’s statement that “I will continue to share teachings with you and to guide you, while on my retreat, and beyond.” They are concerned that he should not be near students, at least until the code of ethics is in place. However, I understand that others would be devastated to think that he may not teach again. Video teachings are probably fine. Saying that he will still guide the sangha, however, could be seen as a contradiction to the point of his resignation as spiritual director. It also casts doubt on the authenticity of his ‘retreat.’
As for the letter from the Rigpa Management: it is wonderful to finally have some definite directions. They tell us that they “are fully resolved to meet this difficult situation responsibly, sensitively, head-on, and in a way that is completely consistent with the teachings and the spiritual values that we uphold.” Wonderful. It would be nice to see that same resolve from everyone in the sangha, because one of the reasons I’m no longer part of Rigpa is the vicious behaviour I have been subjected to by some members of the sangha, and the blatant misuse of teachings with the sole purpose of defending the indefensible.
It is a pity that ethics wasn’t specifically mentioned because some members of the sangha seem to believe that ‘spiritual values’ in Rigpa do not include ethics. However, Mingyur Rinpoche makes it clear in his article in The Lion’s Roar that ethics are the foundation of the path, and I hope that the Rigpa management will make sure that all students have access to this article so that those who are presently unclear on this will give his clear teaching on the matter the respect it deserves.
They also say they must “seek to resolve it in the best way possible for all concerned, including those who feel aggrieved.” For those who do feel wounded or hurt (don’t we all?) to feel that it has been resolved in the best possible way, they will need to talk to some people who have already left the organisation. I am heartened that I actually did receive the communication through a Rigpa source. This and their later statement that “it is important that you, too, are consulted and have the opportunity to give feedback” indicates that everyone has a role in making sure that this is dealt with in a satisfactory manner.
People will be waiting, but they will also be watching. Rigpa must be totally transparent as they move forward on this. Unfortunately, recent reports of Sogyal Rinpoche’s most senior student delivering only partial information, and therefore a distorted view, to the sangha at Lerab Ling does not give one faith that those who have been running the organisation for years, have known about the abuse, and have covered it up are about to change their ways. His Holiness said on the 1st August 2017 “Sogyal Rinpoche, my friend, but he disgraced.” All that was quoted during a retreat at Lerab Ling was “Sogyal Rinpoche, my friend.” Some students need to consider whether it might be best for the future of Rigpa that they also resign.
I was hearted to hear that management intends to “establish an independent investigation of the allegations of abuse … a neutral third party is needed to fully respond to the concerns raised and to lay a foundation for restoring trust and confidence in the Rigpa community.” This is a very good move. An outside perspective will be very helpful. I look forward to finding out who this organisation will be. The word ‘investigation’ is a bit of a concern; ‘examination’ would have avoided legal connotations. I hope there is no hidden intention to try to prove the allegations aren’t true. We are beyond that now. All that would do is cause further suffering and more conflict in the sangha. I know through having had a conversation with one such person that there are students willing to outright lie about abuse that they have witnessed. I hope that whatever this organisation is that they will be able to adequately ascertain the cultural aspects that allowed the abuse to happen and help institute the kind of cultural change required to prevent a reoccurrence.
At last we have a commitment to “a code of conduct and a grievance process for Rigpa … the codes of conduct will be multiple and apply to students, staff and volunteers, as well as teachers, without exception.” Excellent.
The institution of ‘a new ‘spiritual body’ to guide an advise Rigpa is also a necessary move. I look forward to finding out who is on it. I hope the management team will ask Mingyur Rinpoche whose clarity and understanding of the issues is impressive, and I hope they will have the wisdom not to ask Orgyan Tobyal, whose advice is contrary to that given by His Holiness the Dalia Lama, and who people have reason to believe has his own reasons for squashing criticism of abusive behaviour.
Now I am content to sit back and wait and see. I wish Rigpa well, and hope that this clear direction from the management team will set about the basis for healing the rift in the sangha. I’m truly sorry that it happened in the first place and I apologise for anything I may have said that was perceived as hurtful. I will always love and honour Soygyal Rinpoche for the benefit he has brought me and others, but I remain committed to ensuring that no student is ever in a position to be abused again. I take this stance because I believe it is in the best interests all concerned, including Rinpoche.
Written by a senior Rigpa student.
Not everyone feels content to wait and see. Some wonder if they can trust these announcements and the senior students currently representing Rigpa. Read more responses here: More Students Respond to the Latest Plans from Rigpa: “Not Ready to Trust.“
If you have any thoughts you would like to share, please leave a comment.
Please be sure to check out our resources page and the sangha care resources page.
More personal and private support for current and previous students of Rigpa can be found in the What Now? Facebook group. Please contact us via the contact page and ask for an invite. Include a link to your Facebook profile or the email address you use on Facebook.
125 Replies to “Students Respond to the Latest News from Rigpa: "Content to Wait and See."”
The idea of a ‘spiritual body’ makes me twitch, they’ve been talking about this for years and years. They have formed and unformed many times. I think it would be in keeping with a new direction to call it an Ethics Panel, that way all this unclear dharma babble can be reduced to simple and clear guidelines.
I also wonder how this new ‘spiritual body’ will be selected. If they are appointed by Sogyal Rinpoche, the would defeat the purpose, wouldn’t it? So far, it’s been said that they will be “trusted students” of Sogyal Rinpoche and spiritual teachers from outside of Rigpa. Some people are wondering, however, if these ‘trusted’ students have been in collusion with the allegedly unethical behaviors that have taken place.
Rigpa is currently blaming the ‘allegations’ for the troubles. Despite this situation going on for years, they also express ‘shock’. Why they would be shocked when senior students have been quitting Rigpa and bringing up these issues for a long time. Do these statements ring true to anyone here? Am I missing something? Has anyone seen acceptance of any responsibility?
I hope I’m wrong with my pessimism and there is a turnaround. I’m still wondering how the Sangha might turn toward one another (regardless of management’s response) in deeper ways than can be accommodated in an online forum.
As quite a few have said, there is a rich ground here, but getting the circumstances setup for that potential to heal and open seems precarious at this time.
This is what it sounds like, Rick, blaming the ‘allegations’ for the troubles. Patrick was clearly in the streaming today that there are many questions, even very specific questions, but they cannot be answered because they either don’t know the answers or don’t know how to give the answers. He said there are legal implications as well as spiritual ones.
There seems to be deep denial in the organization, but Patrick said they are not in denial. So we will see.
There are schisms in the sangha, but everything is shifting from day to day as well. So we’ll see if there are more openings for honest judgmental communication in the sangha and as time goes, on healing as well.
It seems right now that many people are in shock that Rinpoche has retired as the spiritual director.
I agree with everything said here, it is hard to feel optimistic about the situation. I keep wondering, over and over, if someone who has harmed people in these ways can even call himself Buddhist. And surely, the Buddhist thing to do would be to own up, apologize, and hang the legal consequences? I mean, it feels like it’s still about him, protecting himself.
But then today I just felt so inspired with how senior Rigpa students are moving forward with all this. The honesty and wisdom and compassion– the optimism combined with a healthy skepticism– is truly a great example. And by making the process so public and open, I believe that everyone involved in this, Rigpa students past and present, are creating a transparency and sangha for the future. There is also a path being taken that might someday become a map for future students in other sanghas navigating this trouble. In this way, I feel like the blessings of the Buddha and all the great masters of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition are supporting these efforts. At the same time, women are being empowered to come forward. The momentum is there. It’s just not possible to predict what will come and when.
“…because one of the reasons I’m no longer part of Rigpa….” yet this person signs it a senior rigpa student! Should be signed by an ex-rigpa student.
I had many of the same thoughts, except regarding investigation. Why avoid investigation? Isn’t a legal process oitentially a good thing here? He’s had his organisation fall apart in the past from his abuse but rebuilt it, and as we saw his letter implies that he may be aiming towards business as usual, albeit without his title of spiritual director. Wouldn’t it be a positive thing if he were tried in a court of law? And if there are so many witnesses to his abuse, if a court were to establish his guilt, that should bring an end to most of the denial, and bring clarity to the situation. And perhaps some justice if he were to go to prison as a consequence.
Some people might think that a student should go to jail for these numerous crimes but not a teacher – why would that be, because the teacher sits in a special chair and has special clothes are people to serve him? Rather, would it not be good to show that we are all human beings, and if a teacher breaks the law, they also have to serve their time, not just by results in future lives, but with results in our human societi s right here.
I wish to express my respect and appreciation for the sound scepticism and open attitude you have shown since coming out with this – and again with this post. It’s truly amazing, inspiring … a pioneering role model for other Sanghas and the future of Tibetan Buddhism in the West. Thank you so much!!!
Thank you tenpel for yor ongoing support. I know you work for years on this issue. Personally I don’t think the international boards of rigpa are ready to manage the change. They are people to manage ordinary but not to invent. I think they should resign too. I agree with the idea to bring more transparency in how the international organisation is run. Names Functions Cashflows. And how SR is financially connected with the organization. I don’t know if these informations are available. But since there are allegations of lavish lifestyle financed by donations this should be proved on hard facts.
Many people have said it and I strongly agree: that having the senior students who were instrumental in covering for Sogyal’s abuse for all those decades now being in charge of an “investigation” or “healing process” is farcical. And Sogyal is almost certainly still directing them, even though he has “resigned” as Director. These students have been obeying his every command for decades and I doubt these fundamental relationships have changed. I also doubt that senior die hards like Patrick have changed their secret tantric view of Sogyal, and very likely still believe him to be the blessed incarnation of Padmasambava, although would not admit such in public. And as such these senior students will see this situation as an obstacle to be skilfully navigated, not a wake up call for confession and healing. This is the same organisation who paid an expensive public relations firm in Paris to train senior students in professional techniques to cover for Sogyal’s abuse (according to ex Rigpa France Director Olivier Raurich)!
I am sorry if my assessment sounds cynical. And I am not sure how an organisation that is totally centred on the guru and the inner circle can heal itself when the core is found to be corrupt and abusive. I don’t mean that healing is not possible for individual people, but healing such an organisation seems very, very difficult.
Unfortunately when gurus and their closest inner circle of students become this deluded about themselves for such an extended period of time, they may never change their views. We have seen it in history with many other gurus. We shouldn’t think that Tibetan Buddhism is immune.
I hope I am wrong, but the pathology of the guru and the inner circle can run very, very deep.
As long as “publicity” works, can the inner circle clan not just dodge and move here and there in order time comes for everything is forgotten again.
Therefor is a little pressure quite helpful for them not to fall back immidiately.
Transparency is anyway not so fashionable within tibetan Buddhism.
May I quote from DKR latest work,”The Guru drinks Bourbon”, Page 227:
“On the ultimate level, transparency doesnt apply to the Vajrayanamaster.
If some Lamas promote accountability, they are only saying so to appease the general audience. In the Tantra, the Guru is not accountable to the student. He is accountable only to his own Karma. Tantra is not as tantric responsibility”
Since so many Rigpapractioners seems to be on the ultimate level, is and was transparency no issue to make many friends within Rigpaleaders.
I remember one guy who dared to ask on the Membership-Meeting of Rigpa Germany for a financial statement, since all members participating have to pass by voting if they agree or not with the financial affairs. Of course, there was no such a statement. Just say yes.
Brave guy, he experienced what is called folded in a paperbox. Thats Rigpa transparency of the past.
So I hope that for the future inner circle beings avoid creating further negative Karma by changing for the wellfare of all beings, and that we all can support them, even with a little bit skillfull public attention.
“On the ultimate level, transparency doesnt apply to the Vajrayanamaster.
If some Lamas promote accountability, they are only saying so to appease the general audience. In the Tantra, the Guru is not accountable to the student. He is accountable only to his own Karma. Tantra is not as tantric responsibility.”
It has always seemed to me that it isn’t the Guru that need be called forth to be transparent and accountable, but us, the Sangha. We need not claim special or exceptional powers of seeing to be transparent to one another. We need not hide our actions behind “Rinpoche said.” We are responsible for our behavior toward each other.
As Mingyur Rinpoche said:
“The whole point of the teacher–student relationship is that it should benefit the student. It is not for the teacher’s gain or profit.
This isn’t to say we shouldn’t be supportive of Sogyal Rinpoche (even or especially now) but we seem WAY out of balance. In most of the images from Rigpa, students are turned away from one another, toward the teacher alone. Even in the local Sangha’s where only video is available. Perhaps, this consistent turning away undermines our confidence and intimacy with one another.
It seems time we form a circle and face one another, turning our intelligence, independence, compassion, and inner wisdom to create something new. Yes, in relationship to the teacher (but not in co-dependence.) The potential to activate a deep democracy, that could help heal not only this situation, but effect the larger environments, too, seems possible.
We have something to offer, we are not dependent on the teacher, we are not impoverished.
Perhaps, our democratic leanings have much to bring to the feudal mentality that informed historic Buddhism.
Dear Dharma friends,
I have been a Buddhist practitioner for over 50 years. In that time I studied and practised with Rigpa for some six years: two of which were in retreat at Dzogchen Beara followed by the so called three year retreat. I also organized a city visit of SR and he stayed twice in my apartment. I mention all this simply to highlight that I have had many opportunities to view his behaviour at close hand. I did what the Buddha and HH Dalai Lama advise us to do, which is to closely examine the teacher. After this, and in the light of my earlier teachings and Buddhist practice, .I decided to leave Rigpa. I could see that it was becoming very cult-like in its surveillance of students, and part of a massive cover up for totally unethical behaviour both sexual and psychological. I also considered that what it was teaching was a distortion of real values and practice in its incessant focus on SR and devotion to him. Like many people, I slipped away quietly not wishing to disturb others’ choice of spiritual path, and found another teacher. However, I now regret that I did not speak up, especially in the light of the bravery of the original eight signatories of the letter and also others who over the past few weeks have expressed their clarity of understanding, ethical values and also compassion for those who have suffered. What I observed personally leaves me in no doubt about the veracity of the statements made.
I am delighted that finally the Dalai Lama has stated that ”SR has disgraced himself” and drawn attention to true Buddhist values and real samaya. Mingyur Rs statement was also a model of clarity and sense both spiritually and ethically. I have to wonder what part of these statements SR and those close to him do not understand. SR is not stating that he is resigning because he is disgraced. On the contrary I find his two slippery statements reflect neither guilt nor compassion nor a desire to make amends. Even now he is not speaking the truth as evidenced by the fact that he did not go into retreat as stated but went to Thailand to attend a conference. Rigpa students are being fed partially true statements, as usual. And where is he now? I am willing to bet it is not in retreat.
So he has resigned as spiritual director yet says in his second letter that he will continue to teach and care for students. While those of his students who are still in denial may be pleased by this statement, personally I think it is a big warning sign to those who hope for real change and as someone said “casts doubt on the authenticity of his retreat”.
I was glad to hear that the management – whoever they really are – plan to establish an independent investigation of allegations of abuse. How wide will this be? Who will conduct this and how independent will it really be? Or is it just going to be yet another cover up? How are they planning to contact people who may have been abused. I have been physically abused – violently shaken when he did not like the fact that I criticized a Rigpa manual. How will they contact me and all the others who have left Rigpa. And what about the awful psychological abuse, which was so endemic that for many it just seemed normal or covered by the very useful nomenclature of “crazy wisdom”. And then there is the sexual abuse. I am sure there is much more we don’t know despite all the past and recent testimonies. In the 3 year retreat we were told never to share anything that took place and I have adhered to this until now. But reflecting on the statements made about SRs sexual proclivities I want to mention something that occurred in the third year that was supposedly part of a teaching but I now view otherwise. The retreatants, including monastics, were instructed to go outside to the side of the temple and take our clothes off. Some did this, some just removed a token item of clothing, under the gaze of SR. It was supposedly symbolic of a traditional practice. With hindsight I think it was simply SR fulfilling once again his perverted sexual desires and another attempt to tighten his hold over the students.
I don’t believe that the inner core of “trusted students” can be trusted in any attempt to cleanse Rigpa. They were complicit with everything that took place and also in the many cover-ups. How can they possibly have the clarity and insight to recognise and admit to both themselves and others what really took place.
They are too deep in the mire. I also have my doubts about a group of “spiritual advisers” unless it is very carefully selected. SR is going to want people who are dependent on him and who he can control. We have already seen what OT has to contribute!!! Of course he is reliant on Rigpa for a great deal, including funding, and at least one holiday that I know of in the Swiss Alps for his entire family, including spending money. When I queried this with the Swiss Sangha and said that I did not wish my donations to be used in this manner, there was outrage and they refused to tell me how much had been spent. After this I never gave any further donations.
Which brings me to the whole question of funding and the use of donations. I have seen at first hand SR’s opulent lifestyle, funded of course by his students, who also support members of his family and the ‘harem’. As was pointed out by an earlier respondents, ever greater pressure is being put on students to provide large donations. This was apparent even during the three year retreat. When I left, a few days before the formal closure, I was taken to SR and given an envelope in which to place my donation, which I then gave to him. Later in the shrine room he asked one of his attendants to go to his room and bring him the envelope, together with a second one offered by another student who also had to leave early. Then he announced our names and opened the envelopes stating how much they contained! This was obviously an attempt to put pressure on the remaining students to give generously. I understand now that students are asked to put their names on donation envelopes in LL. I would like to know is how this money is being spent. Well, in fact I have a very good idea. So what I really want to know is what a new Rigpa administration plans to do to have transparent and accountable use of funds. His Holiness has raised concerns about the use by lamas of donated funds on a number of occasions when I have attended teachings. He himself is meticulously transparent in his use of donations.
So where are we now? Like other respondents to this link I truly hope that a positive change will take place. However, I am also convinced that this only has a chance of happening if a skilled outside neutral organization is brought in to mediate and to help create the space for clear thinking and true understanding of what has happened. Without this, and despite all the protestations around the establishment of codes of ethics, etc. etc. I don’t believe that true change will occur and without this there cannot be real healing or justice for those who have been badly damaged or even just hoodwinked. I do understand that it is very difficult to face a reality that is so out of phase with what many believe and have practiced in some cases for years. I think that many Rigpa students are especially disadvantaged because they have no experience of other sanghas or other teachers. And this is probably how the whole ghastly cover-up, deception and acceptance of totally unethical behaviour came about.
I met many lovely and kind people seriously trying to walk a spiritual path at Rigpa. It was difficult to leave for that reason and I fully understand why those who were there much longer than I can’t bear to break away. But I do hope that if this situation cannot be resolved those Rigpa students who are in denial will summon the courage.There is a whole world out there of wonderful teachings from great traditions passed on without abuse or distortion. After all, buddhism is about courageous awakening and compassion. I wish you all well.
My abiding memory of SR is of a cross little face, distorted by anger, striking out at all around him. I am sure that he must fundamentally be terribly unhappy. Although this does not excuse his behaviour, which I believe has harmed more than it has helped the transmission of Buddhism in the West, I pity him. I am reminded of the traditional concept of the hungry ghost, surrounded by everything good but unable to be satisfied. I think that his relentless seeking of sexual gratification and a luxury lifestyle rather than the sources of true happiness are to be pitied. I wish him well and hope by some miracle that he finds his way back on an authentic spiritual path. Perhaps what is happening now will prove to be a great blessing for him.
thanks very much Daphne. Very instructive.
Would you please let us know what teacher you are now following? We are all lost and, if the massive change we are all hoping for is not taking place in R, we will have to look for another organization and teacher. Then the leassons of your own path would be interesting to all of us. Thanks in advance
hello. I was a student of SR from 1993 to 2001. Like Daphne, I also left to study with another teacher when Rigpa began to seem too cult-like to me. I was also looking for movement in my practice. I have been a student of Chogyal Namkhai Norbu since 2001. He teaches Dzogchen. There are several other Dzogchen teachers I would recommend as well, including Tsoknyi Rinpoche and Mingyur Rinpoche. Of course, each person must find their own teacher and teachings they connect with. I wish you all the best.
My teacher is now Mingyur Rinpoche who fully meets the four traditional requirements of an authentic teacher. In the light of my experience at Rigpa I closely questioned two of his oldest students about whether the compassionate erudite person who appeared before the students was the same in daily life. They reassured me and I have never had reason to doubt him. To attend a retreat with MR is like day and night compared with a Rigpa retreat. There are also many wonderful teachings on line that provide a structured progress through different levels of practice. His books are also very inspirational.
Thanks Daphne for sharing with us your experience. It is very inspiring and gives hope that another route is possible. Love
Mingyur Rinpoche is a good choice. His statement on this is the clearest for me, and his teachings are like a breath of fresh air for me.
Thank you Daphne for sharing your amazing insights and courage. I think your story is one that can inspire others to come forward and speakout– and inspire others also to know that there is a Buddhist future outside of Rigpa. That will have enormous power in itself.
Very good point Daphne about one hidden issue: the improper money handling by SL. If you want to have evidence about what went on in Rigpa: just follow the money trails.
After all, this is not that difficult. Rigpa is composed of non-profit organizations. You can’t just take the money and spend it as you wish. All the donations in cash must be declared in the financial statements.
In France we have one specialty: Taxes. Just an anonymous reporting to the tax administration and you can be sure that an audit will swiftly follow.
I would be especially cautious about any financial movements toward off-shore banks. We can’t be that naive to think that SL didn’t prepare his exit and safety net.
If I was part of the Rigpa Sangha, I would request full transparency of all financial statements per country. It is not that difficult afterward to figure out whether all the subscriptions and donations have been declared per country. Then the Rigpa board will be really held responsible by the authorities.
You know what struck me the other day was to read that “crazy wisdom” behaviour is the last resort, the exception rather than the norm and that the result should be spiritual growth. Honestly, I wasn’t aware of that. During the past 24 ys. I have come to accept it as regular behavior, as I have the pressure of never being a good enough practitioner, and always feeling guilty for not having enough money to pay full retreat fees, having to ask for concession and work-study over and over again, because for 24 ys I worked in Rigpa and did not really earn much money elsewhere. Of course I wanted all this, I wanted to be part of the whole thing and didn’t think much of it. First cracks in my trust appeared toward the end and after the 3yr, and then a line was clearly crossed for me only 2 ys ago when I saw him hitting a small child. He would forbid the parents to take care of the screaming boy but instead demanded them to “look at your mind”. The mother finally went to comfort her little son. Several people were present then, he made all of us promise to never ever talk about this and really I am fearful writing about it, actually, I’m scared shitless. No kidding. I promised my life to him. There has never been any other sangha or teacher I know like I know Rigpa and Rinpoche. Being part of it all and being accepted was enormously important to me, I don’t really have friends other than Rigpa members. There is so many incredible years I had with the sangha as an extended international family with people that have absolutely no trouble being fantastic and mean at the same time, just like everywhere else, incredible teachings, practice, and truly mind blowing encounters with Rinpoche. I love him and everyone so, somuch, I don’t see how my life could have been any different. What happens with all that now?What happens to the pledges we all made over the years? Man, I’m fluctuating between being completely devastated to ‘here’s my chance to pracitce what I have learned.’ The means to deal with all this I learned through Rinpoche.
Thanks for sharing your story.
Many may have had similar experiences and I’m sure are helped by reading your words.
Soulondre, i can really understand the kind of ‘split mind’ that you’ve expressed at the end of your post. Seems to me it’s cognitive dissonance on steroids! I went through a crisis of faith with my first Tib Buddhist teacher many years ago. Finally, as well as exiting his monastery, i knew i had to cut the psycho-emotional ties, otherwise i was going to go crazy. In other words, we invest so much spiritual energy in the act of faith, but ultimately, in my case, it would have been destructive to continue believing in someone whose guidance was wrong for me on so many levels. Yet having cultivated faith over many years, it was initially hard to let go.
Fortunately, i was in an environment where i had access to many other great teachers.
I can also really empathise that in your case, Rigpa really was your life – your social network and support structure. I don’t know if your dilemma is whether to leave Rigpa – or whether you plan to try and carry on in the same mandala, but with an entirely different perspective, knowing what you now know. For what it’s worth i would just encourage you and others caught up in this deeply existential spiritual dilemma to seek out independent psychological counselling. A detached wise listener with professional skills may help to bring some clarity into your life. After all, life is hard enough as it is, so please seek out some self-care. And i hope you really do also have trusted friends in Rigpa with whom you can share your angst. Eventually i’m sure you and others will meet other genuine teachers, if that’s what you want.
That must have been very hard for you to share, but thank you. Please know that you do not have to walk a post-Rigpa path alone. Many are leaving, and in the What Now? Facebook group we are finding much support and are even making Skype groups to meet monthly and continue our study and practice support of each other. If you would like to join us just apply using the form on the Contact page here.
Thanks for the replies and the sympathy. It’s true I’m incredibly torn inside, guilt, confusion, fear, anger and what have you but also love and gratitude… It’s actually practice that helps me right now, and, for the first time in decades, I got a regular job. It might sound trivial but it’s a step to more emotional and economic independence, it implies that I won’t have time travelling all year round from retreat to retreat, I am not living on stand by anymore as I have for so many years, and I do look for other ways of manifesting spiritual values in my life. Sorry, I’m not on fb, not sure I want to join that thing but maybe for the group… anyway, thanks again, this will take much more time than just 4 weeks to process, so I’m trying to give myself space and yes, I’m also talking to a few people, whicih is helpful and comforting indeed. Love and best wishes to all.
You can always contact us via the Contact page here.
The PG video adress to the Sangha yesterday on August 13th was another shock to me : not a word of compassion to the victims and the Rigpa members, not even a word saying that these illegations if proved true are simply unacceptable to all R Management team and if proved true some drastic measures would have to be taken…
In summary, what’s been said : « there will be an investigation, an ethic code, we need time, SR is in a retreat, he is OK, he will keep following us, give us some teachings (incidentally not a single word about the disgrace of SR pronouned by HHDL…)… Let us practice on the current situation… ! »
I hope not but It could pretty much look like : …. Let’s buy time during this crisis, let the pressure come down and little by little and we will come back to the situation as it was during the good old days…
As pointed out in your letter and others, One could wonder wether the current R top management team, who has been at diverse degree, exposed to R abuse along the past 30 years, has the necessary credibility in front of the community to lead the necessary change during this period if they do not do it in a complete transparency… ?
As pointed out by a lot of you, Absolute transparency is key to enable R to get out stronger from this turmoil:
May I add a few suggestions on the way forward:
1) Part of the situation is linked to opacity in R Management : Full transparency is also needed on the financial flows of the R Empire and actual use of funds. The 3rd party investigation should include a financial audit by an independant internationally recognized audit firm (as for any company : Ernst & Young, KPMG, Deloitte,…) to show how the funds have been used in the past and would be used in the future.
2) R should open a transparent forum (even on a closed base as you are doing on FB) where all its current members (and also as suggested former) could express their point of view in an open and transparent manner (visible to all the community) with a moderator process (not a censorship…) so that there is a sense of transparency of what’s going on and the feeling that we are all trying to rebuild R together and that the point of view of the majority are actually taken on board. This forum could build some key proposals for R future and R sangha would vote electronically for them under the control of a third party
3) R could Seek spiritual guidance from highest buddhist authority (HHDL) => ask for somebody appointed by him who has the 4 qualities of a teacher to take over spiritual directorship and restore trust on the teachings and the organization of R Sangha.
4) Set up a new management team with a number of new people including some that previously left and would like to come back with an official organigram (and why not an electronic vote election of the new board members… ?)
Thank you all for your sharing your stories.
Perhaps the interview with Dzongar Kyentse on you tube might be helpfull.
(Dzongar Kyentse interviewed in the movie Turku part 2/4).
His remarks apply directly to the Rigpa situation about money, power and corruption in Tibetan monasteries.
FYI, concerning Dzongsar Khyentse’s response to the current situation, a really interesting unpacking of the samaya aspect of that response by Malcolm at DharmaWheel forum, page 25 ” https://dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=40&t=26105&start=480
I found DKRs letter extraordinarily helpful in pointing out the variety of important issues we are working with.
“Like it or not, as members of the wider Buddhist sangha and specifically as vajra brothers and sisters, we have created a bond between us that is far more important than family. But in our close relationships, we human beings often suffer as a result of miscommunication. What is the antidote for miscommunication? Communication! So now’s the time to clear a space in which genuine, wholehearted communication can take place. In fact, I’ve already seen a number of letters and on-line postings by people who are making a big effort to find a good solution.”
“So now’s the time to clear a space in which genuine, wholehearted communication can take place.”
For those not aware of Bohm Dialogue, please take a look. It seems like a perfect (and adjustable) starting point for Buddhist groups to communicate tacitly, finding within each other the experiences SR has inspired.
I have read the DKR letter . Mainly, I can go with the letter. He seems to want to moderate the R.Sangha a little bit through crisis.
But what I really need to say is: I think he has no clue of what happened really within R. all those years. He seems quite innocent.
I found the DKR letter lacking in a clear message, such as I found in Mingyur Rinpoche’s advice. And most important, like too many, like Patrick and SR and the Rigpa establishment, there was no acknowledgement of harm! No sadness, no acknowledgment that these behaviors had crossed over a line. Without that, I found much of what he wrote lacked a proper foundation.
Yes Joanne, while I haven’t had time today to properly read and absorb DKR’s advice, i already picked up a possible absence of compassion for those who are suffering and that’s a biggie for me. Perhaps you’ll do a critique/analysis of it in the days to come?
My sense of the DRK letter is that he addresses:
— the deep and vast inspiration many students felt/feel with Sogyal Rinpoche
— the extraordinary difficulties of being in relationship with a Vajrayana teacher
— weaknesses on both sides of the teacher student relationship, especially around the clear warnings students should get and heed before entering into Vajrayana.
— the cultural problems embedded into the dharma and teachers.
— the incredible complexity of the teacher student relationship
— that communication is failing and we should make a strong effort to communicate better with the teacher and each other.
— encouragement that many are trying to communicate and are trying to do so in a nuanced and intelligent way.
— that we have to keep thinking for ourselves, freshly and not fall into the rigpa organization speak or into anti-rigpa organization speak.
At least that’s some of what I got out of it.
— that communication is failing and we should make a strong effort to communicate better with the teacher and each other.
Did you ever try to “communicate” with Sogyal ? How did Sogyal react ? Did you get answers ?
I think to leave questions without answers is possibly part of Vajrayana, so to expect communication to be part of VY is only in behalf of the teacher.
Yes, I tried to communicate with Sogyal Rinpoche, but there was never an opening. He did address many of the questions I had during his talks.
I also tried to communicate with members of the Sangha and consistently met the same closed attitude. In my mind, there isn’t much to do if Rinpoche won’t communicate directly, but when we don’t listen to one another then all seems truly lost. However, here we can do something different.
It seems like the power is in us, but perhaps we just don’t know how to activate it. Communicating with one another is a very difficult task, but I think it is possible. If we don’t see the necessity of coming together, then I don’t think it can happen.
This blog seems like a good first step and it is amazing to me to see everyone’s honesty, respectful questioning, intelligence, compassion, thoughtfulness, etc.
I feel the same, Rick.
I want to explain whyat I mean, saying ” Mainly,I can go with the letter”,after rereading that letter.
What I think to be the most important points are:
“So ‘Vajrayana guru’ and ‘Buddhist teacher’ are, in fact, totally different roles
– even when both roles are fulfilled by one person. What I want to discuss
here is the role of Vajrayana master generally and Sogyal Rinpoche’s role as
Vajrayana master in particular, not Sogyal Rinpoche’s role as spiritual
director of Rigpa and public Buddhist teacher”.
Very good example how role are twisted until any newcomer is completely confused. Sogyal Lakar was in both roles at the same time : Public buddhist teacher and Vajrayana-teacher.
If the case of dutch woman Oane Bijlsma is quite clear she came to Teacher of Buddhism, interested in meditation, not as a Vajrayana student and ended up molested sexually and otherwise. Since the group of eight did not only speak about abuse towards vajrayana students but abuse of Rigpa students in general is it from my pov quite misunderstanding what the eight are saying.
In the case of the dutch woman was Sogyal abusive and behaved wrongly, and I dont understand why thinking the Sogyal case is just only in the domain of VY. Its a trail to exclude much of Sogyals bad doings.
Or abuse of money. If there is a crowd of people in the temple, are they all really VY-students ? Its usually a mix of any kind of students, and most of them think the money they donate is spend for some Dharmapurpose and not elsewhere, like booking flights for concubines and so on. And those to accept the money know very well what intention those donators all have in mind. Thats nothing within VY.
So is DKR mainly stating that it is quite clear that SL abusive doings are not relevant as long NON-VY students are affected, dont they count for DKR ? Are people that do not practice VY to low for being victims ?
“However you describe Sogyal Rinpoche’s style of teaching, the key point here is that if his students had received a Vajrayana initiation, if at the time they received it they were fully aware that it was a Vajrayana initiation, and if Sogyal Rinpoche had made sure that all the necessary prerequisites has been adhered to and fulfilled, then from the Vajrayana point of view, there is nothing wrong with Sogyal Rinpoche’s subsequent actions. (By the way, ‘initiation’ includes the pointing out instruction which is the highest Vajrayana initiation, known as the fourth abhisheka.)”
I think there are many students that became abused and many of that points are not fullfilled. According to DKR would this be wrong doing by SL when abusing such students.
I dont think that “Mimi” would be considered a fully blown VY-student. Why abusing her ?
In case that SL did not know proberly about initations: Why ? Lack of education?
In case he would have known: Why ? Loss of the sense of reality ? Metabolic disorder ?
“Frankly, for a student of Sogyal Rinpoche who has consciously received abhisheka and therefore entered or stepped onto the Vajrayana path, to think of labelling Sogyal Rinpoche’s actions as ‘abusive’, or to criticize a Vajrayana master even privately, let alone publicly and in print, or simply to reveal that such methods exist, is a breakage of samaya. ”
Well, and just considering the possibility that the Lama has broken his Samaya towards those students, is it then a break of Samaya to make that Lama aware of it ?
I did not read that Milarepa followed blindly Marpa, its a fable anyway, but even then the Milarepa-story quite different to give students a daily beating for no reason and without any good result.
” they must then both accept that pure perception is the main view and practice on the Vajrayana path”
I think it could even be the students pure perception to make SL and his environment aware of a situation going off the rails at high speed.
“Until then, when your guru chairs a board meeting and it becomes obvious that he has no clue about an issue, as a prudent member of that board you shouldn’t hesitate to supply him with the information he needs.”
Thats what the group of eight are doing, isnt it ? In a in a transferred sense ?
Very good DKR points it out here.
“If an impure perception – such as criticism of one’s guru – is made deliberately and consciously, and if it then goes on to become a well-organized, choreographed public discussion with no room for amendment or correction, it constitutes a total breakage of samaya.”
If a Lama leaves no space for amendment or correction, does he break his samaya?
I think those students dried very hard for any amendments, as many other students that finally left R.
When usings DKR logical approach here, he claims that the students didnt go for amendmends, but as soon as finding out that the students tried very hard for amendments, he could change his POV ?
“One of Buddhism’s fundamental practices is that of working with our own projections. It’s a practice that is particularly emphasized in the Vajrayana. I know many of you will roll your eyes and accuse me of copping out when I say this, but everything Sogyal Rinpoche’s critical students are accusing him of is based on their projection. I know it’s hard to accept, I know it seems very real, but even so, it is a projection. ”
To consider those eight people as samayabreakers might be a projection as well ?
“Anyone with even a modicum of common sense knows that a warning must come before, not after the event. So it’s a Vajrayana master’s duty to warn aspiring students repeatedly and in advance about what they are letting themselves in for. Students must be warned about what they are about to undertake – the full picture, not just the highlights. ”
Very good point, from my poor understanding. Did Sogyal tell to Damchö that almost daily beating would result in transcendence of duality before becoming a close student ?
Sure, there are many woman within R. that might long for a little beating from the Rootlama, but I doubt that this a product of a sane state of mind in many cases.
Sure, I dont know whats in other people mind, but a few women told me they would like it, in case the get it.
“If Sogyal Rinpoche had given these warnings, if he had laid proper foundations by teaching the fundamentals of Buddhism, if he had made sure his students had established a strong foundation through study and practice, and if he had told them before they received initiation and teaching about the nature of the Vajrayana path and the consequences they would face if they broke samaya, the chances are that this current situation would never have arisen. ”
Exactly, and that applies here. If, and if he could doing so, if he would know how to do it, I am sure he would have done.
“I know a little about Sogyal Rinpoche because I have visited several Rigpa centres and have witnessed the Rigpa set-up first hand. To be frank, I didn’t see enough evidence to convince me that the appropriate warnings had been given, or that adequate foundations had been laid, or that the fundamental teachings were properly given. On several occasions it seemed to me that some of the students had been Christians until perhaps the day before they attended the teaching, then suddenly, 24-hours later, they were hearing about guru devotion, receiving pointing out instructions and practising Guru Yoga – it was as extreme as that.
If that’s how it happened – if no proper warnings and no fundamental training were given prior to the Vajrayana teachings¬ ¬– then Sogyal Rinpoche is even more in the wrong than his critical students. Why? Because it is his responsibility to prepare the ground in accordance with the Vajrayana’s prescribed and well-established foundation teachings and practice. There is no question that the person with the greater knowledge, power and therefore responsibility is also more culpable when those obligations are not fulfilled.”
Oh yes, I fully agree. Time for all persons concerned to apply:Look who’s talking.
“If a Vajrayana Teacher and Student Fall Out, What are the Consequences?
If the teacher and student have reached a genuine understanding about the path being practised, and if all the necessary and appropriate foundations have been laid and a clear idea of possible consequences conveyed, but the student still has a wrong view and acts on it by slandering and criticizing the teacher, then, according to tantra, that student will face grave and unimaginable consequences.
But the same also applies to the teacher. In fact, if the teacher hasn’t laid the proper foundations, if the teacher takes advantage of a student physically, emotionally or financially, and if the teacher gives the highest yoga tantric teachings to those who have not established a proper foundation and as a result an immature student breaks the most fundamental root samayas, then the teacher will also suffer extremely grave consequences – consequences even more serious and terrible than those faced by the student.
If the proper foundations have been laid, but the guru’s actions – physical, verbal, emotional etc. – do not bring the student a centimetre closer to enlightenment, and if the teacher’s actions are aimed at personal gain, sex, money, power or selfish indulgence, it’s clear he doesn’t know what he’s doing. He is therefore obviously not a great Vajrayana master, let alone a mahasiddha. And he will therefore experience extremely grave consequences.”
That seems for me to be the case with Sogyal. Thats the reason why a go along mainly with this letter. Very clear statement.
“If the proper foundations have been laid, but the guru’s actions – physical, verbal, emotional etc. – do not bring the student a centimetre closer to enlightenment, and if the teacher’s actions are aimed at personal gain, sex, money, power or selfish indulgence, it’s clear he doesn’t know what he’s doing. ”
It would have been very wise to take the students trials for amendments more serious.
Now seems Sogyal in a situation similar to that well known example of a snake in a Bamboo stick.
“What, for example, wouldn’t he have done even if his own Vajrayana master had told him to do it? If Sogyal Rinpoche’s Vajrayana master had told him to become celibate, would he have? ”
Would Sogyal have gone into retreat as Dudjom Rinpoche wanted him to do?
“In particular, he should ask himself if his actions might turn people away from the Buddhadharma in general and the Vajrayana in particular. And an unenlightened but decent Vajrayana master must always remind himself to distinguish between the fearlessness of ‘crazy wisdom’ and the stupidity of ‘I will never get caught!’”
I saw so many people going away from R., with a understanding of Dharma as being a kind of neurotic group event.
“What is the antidote for miscommunication? Communication! So now’s the time to clear a space in which genuine, wholehearted communication can take place. In fact, I’ve already seen a number of letters and on-line postings by people who are making a big effort to find a good solution.”
I hope that the responible mainpeople of R. understand now the need for genuine communication. In the past- so my own experience- it was more the opposite way.
From up to down- end of message.
So I stop here, otherwise I fear to create another 10 000 word fog candle.
And a main point which I want to make an extra reply: Why not expressing any feeling for those suffering from that abuse?
I think its just not a tibetan tradition to do so.
…it may turn out that such a form of free exchange of ideas and information is of fundamental relevance for transforming culture and freeing it of destructive misinformation, so that creativity can be liberated. – David Bohm
I was shocked by DKRs letter. Where is the compassion?
It is difficult to believe that Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoché was one of his teacher.
What he says about breaking samayas and the guru-disciple’s relation is very different from what is teaching today HH DL.
Preserve privileges, an elitist feudal system, taste for money and power over others… This is what I perceive.
I like very much this advice when examining a teacher: does he respect at least his bodhisattva vow? To be placed in the service of others and the moral discipline are not optional.
DzKR triggers victims emotions of being guilty and ashamed really good again . some vajra lords seemingly lost the relative part of boddhicitta, maybe because they want to close the lines or they fear their lost of power and devotees or simply have no balls to speak out against bad behavior of their lama friends? And of what kind of open communication he is talking ? Transparent communication is maybe here in Whats now or in Buddh.Controv., but also will bring not the urgent needed change in Rigpa. Go to court would. Maybe its the only way spiritually brainwashed people are willing to understand that this history of abuse and falsity has to be stopped and is the wrong path to enlightment. Abuse in Rigpa is succesfully hidden for about 30 years, directed by SL, by playing the humble moderate and wise Lama and by brainwashing his closest students again and again. The upcoming internet was quite dangerous for him and for the most of his students the only way to discover the dark and totally narcissistic side of this Lama. Typical for a narcist SL isnt able really to feel warmhearted, he imitates and plays feelings and devotion to others quite perfectly, always his own aim in mind. And I am quite sure even many Lamas fall into his trap. Remember Kirchheim, when he hammy prostated to Trul.R., praised him enthusiastic with tears in his eyes, suddenly turning proudly to the audience, saying with a big smile in his face: “You see? This is how true devotion should be!” It really seems its totally naive and useless to wait and hope for his authentic regret and his willingness to communicate openly, the same for his hardcore-devotees like PG..
Please don’t let corrupt your own perception in the whole current rigpa-thing, stay strong. The abuse is not right, unjustifiable in any pure view. Trying to manipulate the victims perception again and again is common practice in classical abusive systems. DzKR tried this just again by mentioning the samaya-breaking-issue. and for some it works quite well i fear.
I am a bit suspicious of DKR. He’s been closely involved with Rigpa and I wonder what he knew and kept quiet about because it suited his purposes. Well, HHDL said we should spy on gurus, so here is an email from one of his ex dakinis sent to the owner of the American Buddha website (now only on web archive) Tara Carreon:
“March 31, 2003
Thank you for your inspiring and comforting comments in your last email.
Dzongsar Khyentse was the one who wounded me most. He just became too spoilt. When we first met he confided in me a lot. He wanted out. Two interesting things he said were:
a) His father Trinley Norbu never helped anyone;
b) Dzogchen doesn’t work.
He used to joke that he had been brainwashed. He was a lovely man then. Then he suddenly decided he would become a great Rinpoche. He started writing crap articles rather in the style of Trinley Norbu. All he wanted to do was to make films, and he cleverly drew very wealthy Hong Kong students. I guess that was the way for him to get his freedom, but hurting a lot of people along the way. If you stick in with dogged devotion, and are prepared to be treated badly or at least taken advantage of, you will certainly have “good karma” with Lamas! I had completely trusted him but he just abandoned me having said, “It looks like I’m abandoning you but I’m not” ha ha! I was so bitterly disappointed when I read his truly awful article “Distortion,” and I felt he had fallen under the influence of Trinley Norbu. Now he says he’s gay….I think that is the real reason I was dumped. What a deceitful mixed up man. I read an article on his webpage recently about the making of his latest film in Bhutan, calling him a Saint. At least he’s a good actor. I was very surprised and relieved to read his article in reply to yours. Still pompously written but basically supportive. Maybe he’s got a conscious after all.
Love — [anonymous]”
I agree with DKR that Trinley Norbu was not a nice guy. But I don’t agree with DKR that Dzogchen doesn’t work.
I am extremely suspicious with Trara Carreon and her theories about tibetan Buddhism.
If she had placed such an Email she says she reiceived from a woman, I take it “cum grano salis”, a pinch of salt.
She wrote a lot of nonsense.
If you read ZLA’OD’s comment on the “Privacy” post, he had a friend who was abused by Sogyal. She complained to DKR about it and he advised to keep quiet.
These lamas are very careful to maintain their public image and I will take all the intel I can get on them and try to evaluate its veracity myself.
I understand your dislike of Tara and her website. She got very angry at having “wasted 25 years of her life”. Unfortunately they threw their faith out the window with the bad teachers. In 2005 when I left Rigpa, the American Buddha website was the only large repository of reports of abuse in Tibetan Buddhism. American Buddha contained numerous detailed emails from people abused by Sogyal and they all turned out to be true.
I continue to feel very uneasy about DKR’s statement. My first reaction was fear, fear of the Buddhist path, a path that could exonerate criminal actions. Did he really say that? He did! And fear for the future of this precious tradition. They say it was abuses of tantra that caused the demise of Buddhism in India. I believe that the great Vajrayana is precious when all the elements are brought together properly. But to use the practice of pure perception in order to justify criminal actions and to convince students that what they are seeing as harm is not harm is very dangerous in my mind, a very treacherous path. The dharma is about opening our eyes, not shutting them!
And DKR used Naropa’s story badly in my mind. And his reverence of Trungpa Rinpoche, who left behind his own damaged students, was also misguided. But mostly, I see a terrifying power being protected. On one hand, he claims to be critical of Tibetan culture, but on the other, he is protecting the status quo, the feudal system that gives a corrupt lama the power, the complete power, to abuse– because students are told they will go to hell if they speak out.
Dear Joanne and other Dharma Friends,
DKR’s response was appalling, as have been many responses to this issue. I am baffled that anyone would think otherwise.
These responses will drag (indeed, *have* dragged) Tibetan Buddhism into profound crisis in the West. Every day brings it into further disrepute, to the detriment of the many decent teachers and students.
Even though it seems I may be contradicting you in my response/reaction to DKR’s message, I agree with your assessment: “to use the practice of pure perception in order to justify criminal actions and to convince students that what they are seeing as harm is not harm is very dangerous in my mind, a very treacherous path.”
Perhaps, Vajrayana IS a very treacherous path and we haven’t been warned sufficiently?
Might DKR’s message be read as a warning, “This is what you are getting into!” Perhaps, few would choose such a risky endeavor!
If he had said these words clearly, and prior to this issue, might they be heard differently?
I did hear DKR allude to this at the first 3 month retreat at LL. He looked at us all, shook his head and said, “you are really into it now.” There was a warning tinged with humor. I passed it by, I wish he had posted a more explicit letter like this one years ago.
If every potential student of Vajrayana could read his statement, might it produce the same reaction/response (that you are stating) in most of us and only a few would enter this “very dangerous… a very treacherous path”?
Then, for those that chose such a path, they were clear from the beginning instead of finding out once they were already in the soup.
I mean this as a genuine question: are you suggesting that behaviours such as those alleged in The Eight’s letter could be legitimate spiritual practices? That these would be ok as long as students were warned in advance that they can expect some unusual behaviour that could pose a significant risk to their mental, physical and psychological well being?
Thanks for your question:
Yes. They could be. As a general rule, I’m not suggesting they are or they aren’t. I don’t know
However, in this specific instance, these actions seem to have caused great harm. I don’t see that harm being acknowledged and wish it was, especially by the Sangha.
Yes, if the letter from the Eight were provided to each potential new student, perhaps there wouldn’t be so many Vajrayana students. And if DKR’s post was provided to new, potential students that might help, too.
I think the Sangha should be supporting those wounded by this situation, not trying to act like the teacher or mouth his words to one another.
I think we should talk directly to one another and be in charge of the Sangha, not the teacher. This is what Marpa’s wife did for Milarepa. That’s what it seems to me the Sangha should do for one another. We should stop speaking on behalf of the teacher and be directly supportive of one another.
If a teacher, “warns in advance that they can expect some unusual behaviour that could pose a significant risk to their mental, physical and psychological well being?” and maybe Vajrayana is not for you, yes, I think this would be a good idea.
That is what DKR seems to be doing.
He says, “Yes. From a worldly point of view, much of the Vajrayana seems unthinkable, perhaps even criminal.”
If most go on to say, “that isn’t for me”, then it seems like harm is avoided.
I’m not advocating for or against Vajrayana. If I’d received such a clear warning 30 years ago I might have ignored it, I’m paying heed to it now and find it helpful.
I hope that helps. I can’t tell how the words come across in posts. I wish we could all talk and meet each other. I deeply miss the Rigpa Sangha and wish we could find a dynamic healing together.
Thank you for your honest answer.
I profoundly disagree with you. I can think of no circumstance in which those alleged behaviours could be construed as anything but abusive, and at the severe end of the abusive scale at that.
I don’t believe it’s a case of “well, if these behaviours trouble you, then Vajrayana is not for you”. I think it goes much deeper and further than that. I believe these alleged behaviours to be repugnant, the very opposite of compassion, and totally antithetical to any possible spiritual progress. Human beings do not respond well to being treated like that. To say the very least of it.
“I don’t believe it’s a case of “well, if these behaviours trouble you, then Vajrayana is not for you”. ”
I don’t know if I’d put it that way, but I agree that is roughly how DKR is framing it. I find this helpful for me. It is why I’m not practicing Vajrayana since the 3 month retreat. I appreciate DKR put into words what I had to glean for myself.
“I think it goes much deeper and further than that. I believe these alleged behaviours to be repugnant, the very opposite of compassion, and totally antithetical to any possible spiritual progress.” “Human beings do not respond well to being treated like that. To say the very least of it.”
I don’t know how I feel about it, I haven’t come to a conclusion (and may not ever come to a conclusion.)
However, I deeply, deeply respect why you or anyone would feel this way. From what I can tell, you seem to feel that way out of compassion and caring for others and I appreciate that.
Thanks for the open dialog about this, I appreciate it and am not shutting it down from going further. I am feeling a wish that we could all communicate more directly (skype, phone, etc) Forums are tricky.
I hope this will be of help to those in the Rigpa sangha currently struggling to cope with the problem of SR’s behaviour and also those who may have already left because of it. Especially for anyone who still retains some hope that practising the Dharma will benefit them, it’s a very difficult and confusing experience.
We’re taught that an authentic teacher must fully embody the teachings, so when our teacher embodies destructive traits that are directly opposed to the teachings: sexual abuse, violence, greed, arrogance and indifference to the suffering he causes combined with a refusal to honestly acknowledge or take responsibility for his behaviour, then obvious questions arise: how can the teacher possibly be authentic? If he isn’t, then how could his teachings or my experience of them be authentic?
It’s normal when confronted by something that’s as painful and difficult as this to accept, to tie ourselves in knots trying to explain it in a way that doesn’t threaten us, citing ‘Crazy Wisdom’ ‘Skillful Means’ ‘Pure Perception’ and ‘Samaya’. The list is long and it’s possible to waste a lot of energy and life itself doing this. Suppressing the internal conflict and living in denial is another option for some.
Even Tibetan lamas do this: Notably HHDL and DKR, the latter in such a long, drawn-out and convoluted piece of sophistry that it’s impossible to tell whether he’s trying to convince others to protect business, convince or exonerate himself, muddy the waters or all of these simultaneously.
This particular crisis may be recent but nothing here is new: much of SR’s behaviour has been known in detail to many of his former and current students for a very long time indeed, but remarkably in some cases they’re still there decades after reaching the point that others have only just arrived at. Most Lamas have known too, including the DL, whose belated, tepid statement has finally been drawn out by circumstances, but only after years of actively endorsing SR.
He says : “We may criticize a teacher’s abusive actions or negative qualities while we respect them as a person at the same time,”
……He doesn’t explain exactly why he thinks we should we retain any ‘ respect’ for a dangerous serial abuser and misogynist like SR who has ruined lives, broken relationships and destroyed so many people’s faith in the Dharma, nor does he even understand that for many people who have come to understand what SR really is and the damage he has done, that it would be impossible to do so.
“There are still some beneficial aspects of the guru, a mistaken action doesn’t destroy their good qualities”…….”A mistaken action”? A mistaken action is putting your T-shirt on inside out, it’s a dishonest way to describe decades of deliberate abuse. And yes, it does destroy their good qualities because it destroys confidence in their personality, motivation and integrity and indicates that those supposedly good qualities were just a mask to deceive their victims.
“If you criticize in this way there is no danger of a hellish rebirth as a result”……”A Hellish rebirth”? This is basically a not-too subtle threat, a medieval blackmail technique similar to the type used by SR. Over all, his statement is an attempt to minimize the seriousness of abuse, undermine criticism and limit the potential damage to Tibetan Buddhism while simultaneously appearing to take a moral stance. Too little and much too late now to be convincing.
After years of using your status as a lama to lend credibility to someone you know to be abusive, and taking their money, it’s appalling hypocrisy to try and excuse yourself by then using your status to tell victims it’s their fault they were abused because they should have been less credulous and more skeptical.
So money, prestige, hubris, self-interest, sophistry, twisted arguments, denial and indifference have allowed SR to continue unchecked for all this time. An awful kind of alternative 8-fold path of 21st century Tibetan Buddhism. HH DL and all the other lamas who went to Rigpa and gave him their de facto endorsement, all the students who learnt to look away or rationalize abuse….even their own, all this complicity with varying degrees of awareness, has allowed him to go on intimidating, brutalizing, exploiting and abusing with impunity for so long and it’s solely because without them, the rest would have remained completely silent as indeed they have been for years.
As the Russian poet Yevtushenko said: “When the truth is replaced by silence, that silence is a lie”.
A man who uses his dominant position to coerce a woman who is vulnerable because of her sincere beliefs, into having sex, with any kind of threat, whether ‘karmic consequences’ or anything else, has raped her as surely as if he held a knife to her throat. It makes absolutely no difference what else he has done in life or how many people think he’s helped their spiritual development: his violence and even one woman’s suffering far outweigh the sum total of whatever apparently positive mental experiences he’s thought to be responsible for, how many other famous teachers he’s invited or how many years he’s spent repeating traditional teachings or talking about what he himself can’t practice, or all his students, wealth, fame, dharma centres and best selling books.
None of these alter the fact that SR is, among many other very unpleasant things, brutal and a rapist…… and how many women who came to him to receive teachings has he raped in the past 40 years?
So the answers are harsh but simple: No, a man like this can’t be an authentic teacher, so his teachings cannot be authentic and however you might wish it otherwise, neither are your experiences due to the telepathic transmission of some sort of wisdom by him. Neither should anyone who has ever endorsed him be trusted again.
What SR is however, is a very skilled manipulator who has learnt how to use language, circumstances and setting to generate strong emotional responses, more often by fear and shock, in order to induce dissociative states and compliance in people who are vulnerable because they already have particular expectations. This might seem to be ‘skillful means’ but it’s actually a technique used in interrogation, cult mind-programming, some military training, stoking hatred or fear at political mass rallies and in many other situations that involve abuse and control.
In the context of a retreat, the experiences may seem real and personally meaningful but they’re not unusual: we all have the capacity to enter altered mental states of differing intensity to varying degrees and there are many triggers for this. The disproportionate significance we attribute to changes in brain activity subsequently is subjective and colored by expectation and wishful thinking.
A study of the techniques and effects of this and the psychological manipulation of groups or individuals might prove useful to anyone who doubts this is what they’ve been subject to.
It’s notable how some lamas and students believe that a special exception should apply to SR, as if he’s beyond the standards that any decent society applies, it’s as if a therapist who systematically sexually abused patients over a prolonged period should be exempt from the law because those he hadn’t harmed made their subjective assessment of the good he’d done and dismissed the abuse as less important.
Worse still is the kind of primitive magical thinking that believes in such a thing as ‘Crazy Wisdom’ a well-meaning and benign abuse that magically benefits the victim. This is such a transparently dishonest and perverse distortion of the reality of abuse that not even the Catholic church has tried to hide behind it.
Would apologists for SR recommend an abusive therapist to a friend, family member or allow a vulnerable person or child to encounter him? Certainly not, no rational person would, and anyone with a normal moral sense would expect him to be prosecuted and jailed, barred from practice and put on a sex-offender’s register for life. If this doesn’t happen to SR, the pattern will be repeated again and again.
It’s not easy for anyone to admit they’re in a cult and even harder to free themselves, but that is precisely what Rigpa is and SR is the cult leader.
The dynamics of cult behavior are now well understood and documented, especially the way that abuse is structurally integrated by desensitization, denial and the superimposition of ‘alternative’ explanations.
Sadly, the more successful cults become, the bigger and wealthier they get and the more other high-profile respected individuals endorse them, the more damage they do. Rigpa is now just such a cult, well hidden within Buddhism and able to flourish because of the credibility Buddhism has in the West.
SR is already repeating his previous strategy: blame everyone else, drop heavy hints about his death and go into ‘retreat’….basically hide and hope it all blows over, leaving his hapless students to clear up the mess again. The recent arrogant and weirdly disconnected performance of PG and DS in LL is almost painful to watch. Despite the poignant entreaties of his students the chances of him having the courage accept responsibility or change, are nil.
My views come from 15 years of personal experience. The decision to walk away from SR and Rigpa is difficult and the road back to a healthy life might be long, but as soon as a clear decision is made, much of the suffering, confusion, sense of loss and regret will soon start to fall away with a great feeling of relief.
There are so many better alternatives that don’t involve living a lie in a make-believe world, supporting, ignoring or condoning abuse, even for those who are making a living out of it.
It’s never too late to get your own life and clarity of mind back. Because in the end that’s all we have.
Alex, from my perspective your experience of SL teachings can be valuable even if you don’t validate his actions. It is all about transformation.
There is this practice of taking the world as your guru. So for instance, even Hitler could be one of your guru (you can learn very valuable lessons from him). And at the end, even Hitler has the essence of a Buddha. It’s important not to mix the man with his actions: all sentient beings desserve respect. This is my understanding, for instance I was also outraged to see HH DL mixing with all kind of people including old nazis. Doesn’t mean he approves their actions…
Thank you for your hugely insightful comments and analysis with which I totally agree. Daphne
And the unwritten message clearly coming out of DKR’s statement is to close our hearts. When we hear the screams coming from SR’s compound, see them as pure, and walk on by. This is not a Dharma I would follow.
Joanne, if you’re holding close in your heart the ‘unwritten message’, then hold dearly the written one!
Above comment/ Erratum: para 9, line 8:
‘….solely….; due to the courage of a few honest students that this behavior has been temporarily interrupted,
Isn’t this DKR’s point?
“If you find this view doesn’t suit you, but you still want to follow the Buddha’s path, you can always try the Mahayana and Sravakayana paths instead…”
“If neither of those paths work for you – if you are uncomfortable with the non-dual groundlessness of Buddhism – you might just as well follow one of the Abrahamic religions.”
I’ve met a few Buddhists quite uncomfortable with the groundlessness of Buddhism, and feel outraged when it is brought up. They don’t want to hear it.
I’m not saying these are the same things and there wasn’t and isn’t harm in our current situation. Not at all. I’m probably saying this very poorly, too. Please try to hear the
Isn’t DKR helping by finally posting clear warnings so you can clearly choose, “this is not a Dharma I would follow.”? .
The Mahayana path is part of the Vajrayana Path. You don’t practice one yana without the other one.
Yes, but the Vajrayana isn’t part of the Mahayana path, is it? I think this is what DKR is saying.
Whoa, the Vajrayana IS part of the Mahayana. You cannot practice the Vajrayana without the bodhisattva vow, without the Mahayana.
Right. You cannot practice Vajrayana without Mahayana.
But you can practice Mahayana without Vajrayana, right?
Well, at the beginning of all the practices and everyday we start generating bodhicitta and renewing the bodhisattva vow.
I think at the beginning of buddhism in Tibet, that was one of the main problem: not practicing the yanas at the same time. Three different levels in the temple, the monk was practicing them separately during the day!
Maybe DKR thinks he is so advanced that he doesn’t need relative practices anymore…
Thanks for the reply.
I’m not a scholar, it just seemed to me that DKR was suggesting it is possible to practice Mahayana and stop there, not to engage in the Vajrayana. This is pretty much what I’ve done and while finding it less dynamic and exciting, it still seems challenging enough for my capacities!
I for sure don’t have a pure vision of the Guru, but do allow for that possibility, even if it isn’t something I can do.
Yes Rick, no problem you can practice Mahayana without Vajrayana (like in Vietnam and other countries).
From my understanding, the opposite is impossible. At least this is what I have been taught.
Yep, I think we are in agreement.
Vajrayana is a form of Mahayana. You cannot practice Vajrayana without the Mahayana because all the same values and understanding underly the Vajrayana as they do in the Mahayana. Mahayana can be practiced without Vajrayana of course.
No, Rick, this is not what I hear him say. He is saying if I don’t like the idea of pure perception being a disregard for criminal actions and harm, then I shouldn’t practice the Vajrayana. I am saying that this is not an acceptable choice. I choose to practice the Vajrayana and I choose to speak out if people are being harmed.
“I am saying that this is not an acceptable choice.”
Doesn’t this choice allow you to choose Vajrayana or Mahayana teachers that don’t have this view?
Are you saying DKR shouldn’t be allowed to teach even if he warns students in such a clear way?
Would love to talk with you via Skype or phone. I worry that my posts are failing to express fully what I am trying to say. I appreciate all you are doing and your support of so many.
I think HHDL agrees with you:
Historically, although some Buddhist saints have acted with strange modes of ethical conduct, they were fully realized beings and knew what was of long-term benefit to others. But nowadays, such conduct is harmful to the Dharma and must be stopped. Even though one’s realizations may be equal to those of divine beings, one’s behavior must conform to convention.
and that the Sangha should be in charge of finances
Buddhist teachers at Dharma centers should have nothing to do with the finances of the center. They should concentrate on teaching while the members manage the center’s finances.
I’m still helped by DKR’s post as well as the HHDL.
Hi Rick, sorry I haven’t been keeping up with replies, I live in Australia now and so struggle with time differences and my busy day. Will respond soon. My thinking is that this trouble reflects a crisis in the vajrayana and these issues are at the center, not small.
Hi Joanne, thanks, we’ll ‘talk’ soon.
DKR has said a lot in his message. In this part you are referring to, DKR said we can practice these other two yanas if we don’t want to practice vajrayana.
Mingyur Rinpoche took this a little further in his message.
He said “the best way to leave is to do so without bad-mouthing the teacher or creating difficulties for those who may be benefiting from the teacher and the community. Leave on good terms, or at the very least, do not leave on bad terms. Simply move on with humility and do not feel bad about the fact that it did not work out.”
MR is directly talking about this situation here and now. If we say he’s not, then we are not agreeing with the rest of his statement and picking and choosing what suits us.
Now, I’m not saying you personally are bad-mouthing, but I’d like to see people here use all the advice that is given by such a master as MR. Some of it is being followed, but not it all.
Best wishes to you
Thanks for your message.
Yes, that was the part I was referring to. Yes, what you’ve written from MR takes it further.
That is an important excerpt to refer to and something for all of us to consider, thank you for posting it.
It is difficult for those who have been deeply hurt and wounded to just move on. So it is also good we can provide deep support for one another when that hurt and pain is expressed.
Rereading my post it could sound a bit condescending “for those who have been deeply hurt and wounded”, but I count myself among those, FWIW.
HHDL makes a statement very similar to MR’s about tying to avoid excessive bad mouthing. However, I think the situation is different when people are being harmed. The eight writers of the letter were motivated by concern for harm that would be done if they didn’t speak out. And MR addresses that. And Rick, I agree with you that for people who have been badly harmed, sometimes it is necessary to speak out and there will be strong emotions.
I think most of what I wanted to say about DKR’s statement has been said already.
For myself, I revere the Tibetan Buddhist traditions of Mahayana and Vajrayana. The Vajrayana is a precious tradition. Such stories as the ones about Naropa and Milarepa are the exceptions, not the rule. And if you read Milarepa’s life’s story and his songs, he was a very gentle, kind lama to his own students.
I strongly object to DKR using a few stories of a few exceptional students in a few exceptional situations as a way to somehow excuse chronic abusive and criminal behaviors. SR’s behaviors cannot be called the Varjrayana! Milarepa would be horrified!
It seemed that DKR was saying that in order to practice the Vajrayana, I might have to look the other way when people are being beaten and raped by my Vajra guru, and that I might have to be raped and beaten myself– if that were the case, Rick, you’re right, I would say this is no path for me! In fact, halfway through reading DKR’s piece, I had a thought I have not ever had– the thought to abandon the Dharma, to run as far as I could from ideas such as he was proposing. His perspective is terrifying.
However, I believe that the Vajrayana is a path for me and a path for those like me. It would be a very sorry state of affairs if the only people who went into the Vajrayana were those who could accept behaviors such as SR’s without speaking out…
Sorry Rick, I think I’m just repeating myself! Too long a day. And yes, I guess if a lama was willing to give the full warning beforehand then that would satisfy me. However, from what I’ve seen of so called crazy wisdom, such a warning would spoil the effect, so it would never be given. I think the main question is whether these behaviors could ever be equated with the Vajrayana.
Thanks for all your replies. I see how much work and writing you are doing and appreciate it. I hope our dialogue helps bring out the nuances and subtleties that matter, while at the same time not condoning or denying how deeply people have been hurt, harmed and brutalized by the situation.
When I read your words, I clearly understand why Mahayana would be the right path for you, but don’t understand what descriptions of Vajrayana would make it right for you? I’m sincerely asking, because I’ve come to the conclusion it isn’t right for me at this time.
Reading Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vajrayana in light of DKR’s post tells me I’m not equipped for this kind of hard practice. As far as I know, ‘hell’ isn’t brought up in the Mahayana, but remains an ever looming threat in Vajrayana. I can’t live under that kind of sword and belief system.
P.S. would love to Skype and say “hello” to you at some point.
I would be happy to Skype some time this weekend perhaps. I truly appreciate your and other’s hard work at creating sangha out of this. It is truly inspiring. And I do agree with you about creating better communication. As for your thoughts regarding tantra, have you read the three volumes written by HHDL on the subject? The hell part is not emphasized, but the need to be careful is certainly stressed. And also, not everyone is ready to practice it. Certainly DKR’s viewpoint would scare me away from it!
However, my own experiences of the Vajrayana are troubled, so I’m not a good person to give advice! I received my first empowerment at my first visit to a Kagyu monastery. It was only weeks later, probably after a couple more empowerments, that I learned about this thing called samaya. It was not part of the empowerment ceremony! So in this way, I totally agree with DKR’s points about keeping students better informed and laying a strong foundation of education before introducing students to the Vajrayana. But not through threats of hell!
However, I remember Thrangu Rinpoche once responding to a student who was worried about all the empowerments she had received and he said, “you can never be harmed by an empowerment.” I took some comfort in that statement years later when my relationship with my lamas there fell apart– for reasons I still don’t understand fully, except that I was a suicidal, psychological mess and they were not helping me.
It is possible that the lamas I had believe I have broken samaya by leaving the monastery. I have yet to begin practicing the serious high tantra I was supposed to start practicing after finishing Ngondro. However– and this is the important part– I know my own heart. I know that I have no ill will towards those lamas, I know that I had no choice but to leave that damaging situation behind, no choice at all because I would have committed suicide– and I know that if circumstances change, I would start that high tantric practice in a minute. Meanwhile, I have a small tantric commitment to HHDL that I treasure and take seriously– and I hold all my Mahayana vows seriously (I never took tantric vows, not sure why?)
So this is why I feel very sensitive to lamas publicly declaring the karmic consequences of a situation they don’t understand fully, involving students they don’t know fully. It is said that only the Buddhas understand karma fully. If the threat of hell is placed such that students lose confidence in their own conscience, their own good hearts and their own discerning wisdom, then this is hugely dangerous to my mind.
Thanks for your thoughtful and personal response. I appreciate all your’s and other’s efforts, too.
Yes, this weekend will work for me. I’m on Central Time, so not sure what times are the best for both of us, but let me know. I’m busy on Sunday from 8:45AM – 10:15AM, but free the rest of the time. My Skype email is firstname.lastname@example.org and name is Rick New.
Look forward to seeing and talking with you.
Sunday morning my time 9am/Saturday evening your time 6pm would work for me– or I could also do Sunday evening your time 6pm if that works better. I don’t remember my Skype details, but I will connect with you and then we’ll both know! 🙂
Either evening at 6PM my time works for me. So, whichever is best for you, just let me know.
OK we’ll go for Saturday evening your time….
Saturday it is at 9am your time and 6pm my time. Looking forward to it.
I’ve been not doing so well finding you on Skype. I wrote you on your Skype email. Meanwhile, if you want to connect, my Skype name is joanneclark7
Hi Joanne! Pinged you on Skype…just ping back. Rick
I’m going to head out for a bit. I’ll check back in around 7:45 PM CT. We can try again tomorrow, too! (My Skype is still open, but I’ll be out until then)
You should be able to approve me as a contact anytime. I’ll keep an eye out on Skype and back here.
MR said: “the best way to leave is to do so without bad-mouthing the teacher or creating difficulties for those who may be benefiting from the teacher and the community. Leave on good terms, or at the very least, do not leave on bad terms. Simply move on with humility and do not feel bad about the fact that it did not work out.”
I understood this applies when realtionship between teacher and student is that way that is does not fit.
For abusive teachers he recommend different.
Did I get it right?
Yes, I did miss/forget that when I wrote the above! Apologies to all especially Rick!
I’ll be more thorough next time!
Oh dear, oh dear! It seems that the Rigpa pattern of half truths remains endemic as exemplified by the recent announcements at Lerab Ling which spoke of the Dalai Lama describing SR as “my very good friend” without adding the second part of the sentence “who is now disgraced”. We have the same approach here with Maureen’s half description of Mingyur R’s totally clear and unambiguous statement about Vajrayana, already referenced in this site. Yes, the quote she gave was accurate but she left out the rest which was far more relevant to the present sorry situation. I will give her the benefit of the doubt and assume that she simply skimmed through the statement. She seems keen on giving advice and corrections to other people so I now suggest to her that she reads the full text slowly and thoroughly, especially since she appears to have a high opinion of MR.
So that there is no doubt about what he actually said, and yes Adamo, you are quite right in your query below, I am quoting some of the more relevant statements.
“Now that the world is so interconnected, ethics are more important than ever. In a sense, we Buddhist practitioners are all representing the Buddha’s teachings to the world. Anyone can learn about this teacher or that sangha with a few mouse clicks and a quick Google search. This is a good thing because it makes entire tradition more transparent. Ethical behavior – and ethical violations – are more visible than they were in previous times.
It goes without saying that when schools, businesses, and other public institutions are expected to adhere to a code of conduct and the laws of the land, then spiritual organizations should be role models of ethical behaviour and teachers even more so. Throughout history, one of the most important roles of Buddhist teachers and the Buddhist sangha was exactly this. They modelled ethical behaviour to the communities they served.”
“Leaving a teacher…. Serious ethical violations However, it is another matter altogether when a teacher is committing serious ethical violations. Leaving a teacher on good terms makes sense when the issue is just a matter of fit between teacher and student. When the issue is people being hurt or laws being broken, the situation is different. In that case the violation of ethical norms needs to be addressed. If physical or sexual abuse has occurred or there is financial impropriety or other breaches of ethics, it is in the best interest of the students, the community and ultimately the teacher, to address the issues. Above all, if someone is being harmed, the safety of the victim comes first. This is not a Buddhist principle. This is a basic human value and should never be violated.
“The appropriate response depends on the situation. In some cases, if a teacher has acted inappropriately or harmfully but acknowledges the wrongdoing and commits to avoiding it in the future, then dealing with the matter internally may be adequate. But if there is a long-standing pattern of ethical violations, or if the abuse is extreme, or if the teacher is unwilling to take responsibility, it is appropriate to bring the behaviour out into the open.
“In these circumstances, it is not a breach of samaya to bring painful information to light. Naming destructive behaviours is necessary to protect those who are being harmed or who are in danger of being harmed in the future and to safeguard the health of the community.
“….. We must distinguish teachers who are eccentric or provocative – but ultimately compassionate and skilful – from those who are actually harming students and causing trauma. These are two very different things, and it is important that we do not lump them together. There are plenty of teachers who push and provoke students to help them learn about their minds but that is not abuse. Physical, sexual and psychological abuse are not teaching tools.
“The Buddha himself lived a life of kindness, humility and compassion. He fully embodied the teachings he gave and the sangha that grow around him followed his example ….From the early days of Buddhist ethical conduct was a central to the path as meditation, study and contemplation.”
I am sorry to use up so much space on this listing with these quotations but it seemed important in the light of the sole quotation from MR’s totally clear discourse offered by Maureen. Of course we can all benefit from reading and rereading the whole statement, especially those Rigpa students who are still in denial.
Thanks Daphne it needs to be restated in its entirety many, many times.
Can someone please tell DKR to read MR’s full statement on ‘Crazy Wisdom’ as well?!
Regarding Lerab Ling only repeating “SR my very good friend” from HHDL and cutting off the rest of the quote, I am for some reason reminded of Animal Farm by George Orwell. It was also a farm……. like LL!
“If you find this view doesn’t suit you, but you still want to follow the Buddha’s path, you can always try the Mahayana and Sravakayana paths instead…” Isn’t that incredibly patronising? Is DKR saying that we need to accept verbal, physical and sexual abuse as part of the Vajrayana path? That’s medieval.
I admit that due to other deadline pressures I have yet to sit down and absorb DKR’s ‘advice’, while these social media blogs offer a reprieve from said other pressures and are therefore a welcome diversion, even though the subject matter is less than pleasant. So perhaps I’m interpreting the above quote out of context?
DKR’s message is a blunt description of Vajrayana. In all my years of study, no one ever described it with such frankness and detail. If they had, I would have held off entering any kind of Vajrayana practices until I was ready.
Wikipedia has such entries as:
“Some tantras go further, the Hevajra Tantra states ‘You should kill living beings, speak lying words, take what is not given, consort with the women of others’. (it goes on to say the killing is metaphorical and some practices may be practiced metaphorically) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vajrayana
I think I carried a Mahayana view of Vajrayana most of the time, but deep down knew it was more than that. I wasn’t ready, but wasn’t properly warned either. This should have been made clear, DKR seems like he is doing that.
So, even if patronizing, maybe what DKR said is true. His letter is an attempt to describe how big a jump Vajrayana is and I appreciate his frankness and do come to the conclusion, it isn’t for me, I don’t have that capacity or leaning.
Still, what I learned during the days of study with Sogyal Rinpoche is immeasurable. Despite the incredible difficulties, the times with him and the sangha were priceless days and the best of what is there lives on in a healing way.
Sorry, couldn’t edit. Leave out “please try to hear the…”
A genuine teacher should uphold his vows and precepts. If he doesn’t respect at least his bodhisattva vows and shows repetitive, outrageous breaches especially against his own students (or anyone else): this teacher is just not authentic.
For a lama: don’t harm others if you aren’t enlightened and anyway if you are enlightened you will never hurt others!
DKR’s statements are in violation with those very basic principles.
It is time that we wake up and see the true nature of those individuals. There should be a black-list of this mafia on internet so new comers could be informed.
I have the bad feeling that tibetan lamas prefer to preserve their institutions and the official image of the Dharma rather than protecting the practitioners. Again, this is not the bodhisattva’s way.
Alex, I have some agreement with what you say. It is horrible that things have gone on for so long!
However, if you know about cult dynamics– and the dynamics of abuse–then you would also know that resolving them is neither simple nor quick. Timing is everything. And there are no quick, easy fixes. When Behind the Thangkas was published in 2010, the conversation around it was rather harsh in my mind– and it did not involve Rigpa students. As such, I think this made it hard for His Holiness and other TB lamas to step forward. The result, I think, would not have been what I am seeing now, which is Rigpa students taking charge of the situation in meaningful and powerful ways.
Rape is also a difficult and complicated thing. On one hand, it’s clearly criminal. And yes, he belongs in jail. But the question of how best to help survivors is going to be complicated and take years and years of effort. Some will want to come forward, some won’t and some will never acknowledge they’ve ever been raped. I believe that Rigpa and Tibetan Buddhism is in this for the long haul and in that context, I believe that His Holiness has laid down a good foundation. What you call tepid, I call a foundation for real reform, which must start slowly from the ground up. This is, finally, much bigger than Rigpa.
I have serious doubts that his long term students are the right people to be steering Rigpa through this difficult time. They are so connected with SL and so brainwashed that it appears that they can’t see the truth. They simply think that anyone with a complaint ‘doesn’t get it and has impure perception’. On a retreat a few years ago I spoke to one of his close students and asked about his behaviour and the way that he treats people. I was told that in over 30 years that they had never seen him mistreat anyone. I knew this to be untrue and I pitied her because I thought that if she can’t be honest with herself, there was no way that she could be honest with me. I think that all of his inner circle are basically in this same position which makes them unsuitable to be leading the sangha at this time. SL will simply be pulling all the strings from behind (like a puppet master) and his inner circle will still be doing his bidding to the detriment of Rigpa.
For those of us who have long held concerns about his behaviour and conduct, I want people without that close connection to him to be determining the appropriate way forward.
I am very interested to see who the neutral third party turns out to be and what their recommendations are. I also want financial transparency and I feel that a financial audit should be part of any future plans. I am pleased that they seem to realise that this situation won’t simply be swept under the carpet and that it won’t just be ‘business as usual’, but I am not confident that the change that I am hoping for will come to fruition…
Is it possible we are experiencing the effects of narcissistic sociopaths clothed as ‘mahasiddhas’? How would we know, really?
In a Western context, raising boys;
– in an all male environment
– with little contact with everyday people and little/no experience as a normal householder/family/community member
– being treated both as a kind of ‘god’ with inborn superiority, privilege and power
– as well as experiencing a kind of prison-like life with long periods of repetitive religious practice, poor nutrition, harsh, punitive treatment including beatings, solitary confinement
– perhaps also sexual abuse….
In such circumstances, we would not be surprised to find such a boy growing up to be a man with psychological issues and perhaps severe disorders. Why do we think these teachers are immune to/benefited by or are beyond this?
A person with such extensive discipline and training could possibly become an arch manipulator and his spiritual training may well have resulted in some ‘siddhis’ which may lead a student to believe he is highly evolved also. Add to this the ‘pure perception’ phenomena and the potential for abuse is obvious….
It can be very difficult to know who to trust. especially when we are told that our perceptions and feelings are deceptive or merely ego.
I found Mingur Rinpoche’s advice to be helpful – particularly the part about if one’s experience with one’s teacher is actually causing anxiety and trauma… and further confusion, it probably isn’t a manifestation of wisdom or compassion! He brings a warmth and sanity to the situation, not another cold, logical argument where the root and bodhisattva vows seem to have disappeared entirely.
Rigpa Germany: Informational Press Release ( Language German): http://www.rigpa.de/lang-de/rigpa/presse.html
And a good commentary on DKR’s statement; http://www.patheos.com/blogs/americanbuddhist/2017/08/the-merit-of-pointing-out-abuse-in-buddhism-dzongsar-khyentse-rinpoche.html
Yes Joanne, you’re absolutely right to say that resolving these issues is neither simple nor quick and there are no easy fixes: ; it’s exactly what I described (from experience) in my comment as ‘a long road back’. It’s tricky: and it’s best to be realistic but not to the point of discouraging people who have the chance to free themselves from abuse….or to sink back into a potentially abusive situation.
‘Behind the thangkas’ was a full 17 years after the conference in 1993 during which HH DL was made fully aware of the problem. If you know the milieu you’ll know that it was common knowledge long before this. So during at least a quarter of a century not only did neither the DL nor any other lama make the slightest effort to even limit the damage SR was doing, but many of them actively gave him their unequivocal endorsement: The DL wrote the foreword to the TBLD and inaugurated LL…..so it seems it wasn’t at all ‘ hard for them to step forward’ when mutual benefit was involved. There’s no point in trying to pretend this was neutral behaviour.
Remember: that’s 25 long years of double standards and convenient silence that left SR free to abuse…..and in an increasingly violent and public manner precisely because their indifference led him to believe he was untouchable. It shouldn’t be forgotten that 8 desperate Rigpa students brought his abusive behaviour back into focus, the lamas who commented only did so after the fact and because they had little choice.
You’re also right to point out that this is much bigger than Rigpa, because it shows that there is are real structural problems within Tibetan Buddhism: an archaic, feudal, theocratic system with no oversight or sanctions for any kind of destructive or dishonest behaviour at all. Let’s face it, the notion of personal karmic consequences evidently hasn’t been any kind of deterrent to SR at all and when those with authority refuse to assume that authority when abuse is involved and just endorse the abuser instead, the results are very serious…..but only for others.
Unlike you I don’t accept the right of anyone in Rigpa to be ‘taking charge of the situation in meaningful and powerful ways’, this is arrogant of them and outrageous: precisely what they should not be allowed to do because it’s no longer their prerogative in what is now obviously a criminal matter. Many of these older students have enabled and been actively complicit in abuse and they readily admit that they are in contact with…. and so are certainly acting under the direction of SR who is the abuser, so anything they do now will be an attempt to try and retain control, manage the repercussions and minimize the consequences for SR, themselves and Rigpa and as such should be ignored by anyone who is repulsed by SR’s conduct or feels they are a victim.
There is absolutely nothing in the history of SR and Rigpa that has ever indicated the slightest intention of sincerely dealing with the problem, in 25 years nothing has ever been resolved, so why in this current episode should they now be given the benefit of the doubt? Until quite recently denial was their strategy and it’s only because the dissemination of information online has been so rapid and far reaching that they are being forced to react like this at all.
Whistle-blowers can only highlight a problem so it can be openly discussed, but the idea of self-regulation in any organisation, especially one with the cult dynamics of Rigpa is a contradiction in terms, neither can a supposedly neutral third party be trusted if it’s in any way selected by those involved. Everybody knows how this works, this is very serious and so it’s a matter for the courts.
Neither can I see how HH DL can lay a foundation for anything, as it’s not even a question of ‘reform’ at this stage and the reason is this:
We all live in a modern democracy, which however imperfect, has an independent and impartial judicial system to regulate society and protect us. It’s hypocritical to benefit from this….. as we all do, while simultaneously wanting to claim some exception for gurus and religious groups. So until and unless people abandon the collective fiction of a magical parallel society where ordinary rules don’t apply to some individuals, then in this nebulous, shifting moral and psychological world there’s not ever going to be any solid ground beneath to build foundations on in the first place.
By a very rough analogy, it would be like trying to patch up or build on top of a rotting house on unstable ground: you have to clearly understand the causes first, then demolish and remove the rubble…..or you could abandon the site altogether.
If and when SR has been made accountable to the courts and the opaque finances of both him and Rigpa have been officially audited, then the essential preliminary work will have been completed. This in itself would be a long and tortuous process, and so before that, talk of reform or rebuilding is premature and naive.
Over the years a very large number of students have already been through this, and no one I know of, even with just vague doubts, has ever been genuinely helped in a truly neutral or honest way by anyone in Rigpa who still uncritically sees SR as their teacher; it’s impossible, their beliefs simply don’t allow for that. Plenty of denial, obfuscation, censure, contempt, bullying and ostracizing victims……but no real help, as many of us found out to our cost. Despite all the lofty talk of compassion, sangha, vajra brothers and sisters, the reality was that unless we agreed to abandon all critical intelligence and common sense, we were strictly on our own.
As to ‘How best to help survivors’……well, given the severity and number of victims involved, realistically, I’m not sure exactly who you think is going to be available to do that? Who are all these people who will have the time, motivation or the real skills and experience to help so many people to do something that you yourself describe as ‘complicated’ and taking ‘years and years of effort’? Is Rigpa actually going to set up a fund to pay for therapy for all those who have been abused by SR? Unlikely, don’t you think? The queue would be rather long.
In the same cowardly way that SR has vanished at the first sign of trouble; when they are confronted by the reality of the suffering their own teacher has created, his older students won’t really be there for others either, they have never been.
So I would recommend just walking away as soon as possible, not being passive, getting external help from and expressing your concerns to the Police and official organisations that deal with cults and abuse. These are the only options and will entail much less suffering in the long run.
Alex, I’am afraid you did hit that nail with a hammer.
“his older students won’t really be there for others either, they have never been.”
Are there older students still in the organization that are here, on this blog? If so, could you say “hello” and connect with your dharma brothers & sisters?
Alex, I agree with everything you say. I don’t think I meant that I expected Rigpa students to be able to do the work so much as Rigpa ex-students and those on this blog and elsewhere who are admitting that this is not business as usual. If I stated it differently, then I admit error. Particularly as I follow things, and particularly since DKR’s statement, I am feeling that same creepy, scared feeling I get whenever I am confronted with Tibetan feudalism. I sense that DKR is laying the ground for business as usual in Rigpa and it makes me physically ill.
It is almost twenty years since I left Rigpa and in that time I have confronted many similar issues in other TB centers as are currently harming students in Rigpa. It is scary, particularly for those of us who revere the TB tradition.
I have not been part of a TB center now for twelve years. In that time, I have studied from HHDL and done the almost full time work of recovery from my time at Rigpa and beyond. The reason that I am quick to defend HH is because he is the ONLY high lama acknowledging that there are problems at all with TB lamas and and the only one helping to guide students out of abusive relations. When I left my last TB lama, I was suicidal and desperate. A few teachings from HH came my way, particularly the one in which he advises about the dangers in seeing “everything the lama does as perfect.” And over these past twelve years, there has been a trail of teachings from him that have directly led me into full recovery. These teachings saved my life and my spiritual wellbeing. So when I hear people criticizing him for not doing more, I immediately think, but he did so much…
Could he have done more? I seriously don’t know. If he had spoken out before the courageous eight had spoken out, if he, a Gelug lama, had spoken out disparaging a Nyingma lama, without the support of SR’s ex-students, acting on un-proven allegations, I’m not sure there would have been any hope for resolution. Even today, reading DKR’s writing, I see the same sectarian belligerence that has plagued Tibetan Buddhism for so long– and even today, I wonder if resolution is possible. I mean, has any statement come from HH Karmapa? Any statement from Sakya Tenzin? Tibetan Buddhists use their lineages to hide from difficult issues– and even with the Kagyu issues that have surfaced with Kalu Rinpoche and recently with Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, I wonder how much is being addressed in real ways.
So yes, I agree with everything you say, even that I sincerely and deeply wish HHDL and others had spoken out sooner– but I also hold HHDL dear in my heart because of how much he is doing that NO ONE else is doing to preserve the TB tradition– how much help he has provided students in mapping a way forward. For example, without his statement from 1997, those courageous eight would never have stepped forward. They needed that quote. I think sometimes we minimize how big a deal that is, how much that broke from traditional Tibetan culture, because we are viewing things from the slant of our cultural bias and we are viewing things from outside the institution.
And then there is that big complication that family members face when they are trying to convince their loved ones they are being abused– and that lengthy, complicated process of convincing cult members to go free.
But I also acknowledge that I too am a little biased because of my deep devotion for HH.
Thank you for your comments!
Sorry I didn’t use abbreviations– and I meant Sakya Trizin
Re: HH Karmapa – according to Ken Holmes here:
“Exactly 40 years ago, the XVIth Gyalwang Karmapa predicted this. It is why Akong Rinpoche, to whom the 16th had spoken directly about Sogyal and one or two other lamas, would never have connections with Sogyal or let Samye Ling make connections. People thought this extreme at the time and said it was personal jealousy.”
I’am not so shore that thousands of students learned how to meditate !To begin with, I met personnaly instructors who where ” not sane ” at all ( in L.L ). Then, the very base of shamata- vipasyana was not taken seriously ( in time, individuel coaching, follow up,…). I saw in non- rigpa centers the opposite, people who reach the vipasyana stage show signs I didn’t notice much in rigpa. I’am I wrong ?
According to DKR you may be wrong, in his opinion he said the Rigpa practitioners are among the best and humblest he has ever met. DKR doesn’t mince his words, he says it how he sees it.
He even said at a drupchen in Mexico last year, at which, many sanghas from all over the world attended, that the vajrayana would be authentically held by the Rigpa sangha.
I do find it interesting that people say this about Rigpa and then a master like DKR, who calls a spade a spade, says the complete opposite. It’s interesting though, isn’t it?
Rigpa practicioners humble ? A spade might be a spade, but the burqa – dress is definitly not mentionned in that abrahamic book. But then again, it’s not about generalising all R students, but that was mainly my impression between 2000 and 2005. It is interesting …that all the other sanghas wouldn’t held an authentical vehicule …?
Not my words, they were DKR’s in his letter! “….of all the western Vajrayana students I’ve come across, Rigpa students are among the best and humblest”.
But I didn’t say that other sanghas aren’t authentic holders! DKR said the Rigpa sangha is the place where the practice of chime palm nyingtik would be authentically held. (I apologise as I specified vajrayana earlier, which as we know, CPN is!)
Best wishes to you
Yes Arnie, thanks for the additional comment: thus have I also heard, and it was in the context – looking back in the end of the drupchen in Mexico, when DJKR -as a very humble means taking comparison how it had been held in Mexico for the first time. And since he was admitting, himself being somehow as not so best in organizing, building structures, so there is in future space to improve. And closing this subject, he therefore gave very kind advice : if we want to attent a really properly held CPN drupchen – we should take to Rigpa . And by doing this he was referring to this ceremony held before at LL by OT Rinpoche. This was the meaning I got.
Hi P, no what he meant that in the future this tradition of the practice of CPN would be held authentically by Rigpa. But in no way am I saying that other sanghas aren’t, can’t or won’t!
Talking about being humble …with thanks to Oane.
I attended that drupchen, but did not hear what you reported. But I may have been unattentive at that moment. Nevertheless I can’t confirm there have been many sanghas ( from other masters) over the world. Your Expression is misleading, there might only have been few disciples, who also follow other masters – may it be mainly or besides following DJKR.
my post was adressed to Arnie, sorry I dropped the line.
Thanks Joanne and Alex for a brilliant conversation. I find myself agreeing with everything that both of you said. I very much appreciate Alex’s clear analysis of the psychology of the whole situation. And it made me think if I had cut HHDL too much slack.
I don’t know if anyone here is a fan of Huston Smith, advocate of the Perennial Philosophy, Traditionalist and expert on world religions, through study and practice. He was Christian by faith and upbringing but practised Advaita Vedanta (Ramakrishna tradition), Zen and Sufism for tens years each. He went on a world tour to meet leading religious figures and adepts and I think his biographer asked him if he felt that he had met any truly awakened people. “Alas…” he answered “…no”. But then he remembered HHDL and said that he thought it was truly remarkable that he had been brought up almost as a god and had only seen everybody worship him, almost from birth, and yet he was still so down to earth, honest, truly humble and unrelenting in his compassion for others and regarding the tragic loss of his own country. I know it is possible for lamas to fake this behaviour, but either HHDL is the best actor in the world or he is genuine.
I have had serious doubts and still do about the tulku system in Tibetan Buddhism. We have had Sogyal, the Karmapa controversy, Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo just to mention a few. There have also been some dud Dalai Lamas, of the ones that didn’t get murdered. But for some reason they got this 14th one very right in my opinion.
There are definitely many problems with a feudal theocratic state and the rampant institutionalisation of religion on the scale seen it Tibet. HHDL openly admits that feudalism was terrible and it wasn’t good that everyone wanted to become a monk just because it was a good vocation. What I want to say is that it is a very, very difficult role to fulfil, that of being a politician for all national affairs and the religious head of the country.
Huston Smith was a Traditionalist and believed that it was best to change religion from the inside. This is a complex subject in itself. I think part of the reason was that each religion was a divine revelation from figures like Christ, Buddha, Mohammed. The Perennial Philosophy states that each relegation is of itself sufficient to gain salvation or awakening. It is not possible to invent a religion yourself and there is the risk of cherry picking if you remain on the outside of traditions. In these ways it is possible to see HHDL’s actions as more radical and significant. He cannot bring the whole house down and has a responsibility to maintain the tradition. Sometimes I find this perspective difficult as I have always had an antiestablishment or rebel streak. All religions have had terrible human problems, but if you go back to the original revelations it is very hard to find anything at fault.
Just some of my thoughts. I admit I am struggling at the moment with TB tradition being so repugnantly authoritarian. Lamas sitting on thrones, pompously playing guru even though they do not have any realisation and exerting a strong ownership over the Dharma and using it to have power over others, rather than to truly help others. Hmm that just reminded me of how Patrul Rinpoche complained about dodgy lamas…
There may be limits to what we can accomplish via online posts and text.
The capacity to shift states and perspectives together may help in including a landscape of views and not consolidating too quickly (or at all)
The Dalai Lama said it was time for lamas to “act conventionally”, not necessarily to think or perceive conventionally.
Grateful to read the post by Ken Holmes from one month ago, as I was not part of this group at that time. Many wise words, particularly: to watch ones’ mind and comments during this time, if one aspires to the bodhisattva path. Thank you Ken.
Hi Same, I find Ken Holmes advice very helpful too.